A 1933 black and silver Packard limousine parked on the front lawn at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, set the tone as guests arrived at "Midnight in Paris," the sponsor and VIP dinner that opened Wine Weekend St. Pete on Feb. 8.
The chandeliers in the Marly Room sparkled against the deep blue draping that lined the walls, and elegantly dressed patrons had champagne and hors d'oeuvres in the garden.
Stars for the evening, and weekend, were vintners Jean-Charles Boisset and Garen and Sherri Staglin. The menu from Tyson Grant of St. Petersburg's Parkshore Grill took inspiration from classic French preparations. Appetizers included Escargot Bourguignon and foie gras panna cotta, and the dinner courses included truffled custard garnished with caviar and served in eggshells, butter-poached black bass, quail au vin, a cheese course and tarte tatin.
Representatives from Chanel in Palm Beach and New York and a film crew from Germany were among those enjoying the evening. Event co-chairmen John William Barger III and Patricia Rossignol, just back from Paris Fashion Week, are among the subjects of a RTL Television documentary featuring Karl Lagerfeld, the creative director of the Chanel fashion house, and Mrs. Rossignol wore haute couture Chanel for the evening, which also featured a live auction.
On Saturday, wine lovers and art lovers raised their paddles in a high-glam, big-bucks auction, the second evening of the three-day fundraiser presented by the museum's Margaret Acheson Stuart Society. Proceeds benefit the museum's outreach programs to children.
About 200 patrons were in the Grand Ballroom at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, and the bidding seemed to raise the ante on last year's event.
Best dressed of the night were Rossignol, in glittering black Chanel reminiscent of prewar Paris, and emcee Thomas DuPont, in a blinding pop art suit of cartoon lighting bolts in neon colors.
The wines were high quality: first-growth French bottles of good vintages and rare Californians such as Screaming Eagle and the finest bottles of Boisset Family Estates and Staglin Family Vineyards.
Bidding was unrestrained under St. Petersburg auctioneer Jeff Burchard's gavel, with many lots selling over value; a few top lots sold twice. The Staglins and Boisset added endorsements of the wines, as did Dr. Jean-Francois Rossignol.
Some attendees, including Bud and Fran Risser, were both bidders and donors.
"I've got more wine in my cellar than I'll ever drink. I can't think of a better use,'' Bud Risser said of their offerings.
A jeroboam of 1976 Lafite Rothschild from that cellar fetched $2,250; a six-bottle vertical of Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, $1,950; and a case of the 100-point '86 Lafite Rothschild, $12,000.
To help further, the Rissers bought a California wine vacation hosted by the Staglins.
Trips to the Northwest; Paris; Morocco; Baden-Baden, Germany; and Bahrain were among the top draws valued. Bill and Lori Custer bid $16,000 for an 11-night African safari.
"We always wanted to go there," said Bill Custer, an Ohio horse breeder who recently moved to St. Petersburg. "We didn't even know it would be offered.'' They couldn't resist.
On Sunday, a vintners brunch at the Vinoy featured wine and champagne tastings and live art demonstrations, with some patrons lingering into the afternoon.
Organizers don't have final figures, but the proceeds for the museum should be substantial. Members of the event committee were Margaret Amley, Pam Barger, Nancy Biesinger, Shannon Woodard Borton, Dr. Lee Ann Brown, Allison M. Canfield, Kathy Doermer, Pascale Durand, Brad Husted, Camilla Kilgroe, Maggi McQueen, Glenn Mosby, Gail Phares, Carol Piper, Audrie Ranon, Betty Shamas and Carol Treichel.
The Women's Service League celebrated its 70th anniversary of service to the community at its Fashion Promenade and luncheon, held in the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. The organization chose Lighthouse of Pinellas as its 2013 beneficiary.
Recipients of the league's inaugural Spirit of Service awards, which honor community volunteers, are Ann Vickstrom, Judge Tommy and Elise Minkoff, Scott Wagman and Beth Houghton, Catherine McGarry, Dimity Carlson, Chloe Firebaugh, Roseanna Costa and John Stross.
Inductees into the League's Hall of Fame were Mary Ellen Conte, Barbara Paonessa, Bill Emerson, Teresa Wittstruck and Fern Clayton.
Fashions were provided by Apropos of Tampa.
Elise Minkoff led the event committee, which included Joann Barger, Fern Clayton, Roseanna Costa, Lynn Cox, Jeancarol Hart, Joyce Larson, Karen McCollum, Catherine McGarry, Maggi McQueen, Jackie O'Brien, Gail Phares, Sally Poynter, Karen Saron, Edie Spies, Barbara Wiseman, Teresa Wittstruck and Mary Wheeler.
Times correspondent Chris Sherman contributed to this report.